Empathy for the Devil
Yesterday, I met a friend for a few drinks, some seriously poorly played billiards and overpriced bar food. Afterward, we hopped in a Lyft on our way to see one of those action movies our wives don’t like. Pretty standard Thursday evening so far. Also in the Lyft were two guys, one of whom was talking at Donald Trump decibel levels about how much he hated his boss, how stupid his boss was, and how much he hated, well, everything about life. Bummer for sure.
This is one of those conversations we overhear all too often. Aside from the fact that complaining can kill you, isn’t it social faux pas to go on like this when there are three other people (myself, my buddy and the driver) all in the same confined space of a 2012 Nissan Rogue with the rear windows impossibly rolled up? Did he want us to chime in with some support? His buddy was doing his best, but the dude just kept saying horrible things. I had to say something, and I did…but, let’s see where I’m coming from first…
I’ve been doing three things lately:
- Practicing Metta or Lovingkindness Meditation.
- Reading lots of Brene Brown.
- Forging ahead with my new venture that seeks to increase connection in companies through improv workshops that focus on communication skills.
One of the things that has been coming to light for me through these efforts is the difference between sympathy (not good) and empathy (good). This video does a great job of explaining the four main differences between them:
Staying out of judgement
I felt genuinely bad for this guy — he sounded so unhappy. Taking these aspects of empathy into account, and to hopefully get him to perhaps sucking life out of the car, I began the conversation by just turning my head and talking to him, rather than by asking permission:
“Hey, having a difficult relationship with your boss sucks, I’ve been there.” (Perspective taking)
“Yeah, but he is really awful, he doesn’t even understand what I even do — I am so much smarter than him. I should demand $30,000 more a year, then I’d hit $150k a year and be set!” (emphasis his)
“That’s one way to change the dynamic of the conversation — is your goal to have a positive relationship with your boss at your job or make more money?” (Staying out of judgement — even though I wanted to say “you fucking idiot, money doesn’t make you happy”)
“More money, obviously! Sluts and blow don’t buy themselves!”
“Wait, did you just say ‘sluts and blow’?” (Beginning to go off the rails here)
“Yeah dude, hookers and cocaine!”
“I thought we were talking about your career…a good barometer to see if you are happy in your job is if you want your manager’s job — do you want his job?” (Trying to recenter the conversation on his main issue)
“Fuck no. I want to be rich like Jordan Belfort. You know, from Wolf of Wall Street? You know that scene where Jonah Hill pulls out his dick and says; ‘I’d let that chick give me AIDS!’, so funny!’
(At this point all empathy efforts have been abandoned)
“My wife and I walked out of that movie.”
“Are you gay or something? There were so many hot naked chicks in that movie showing their tits!” (What a charmer)
“Wow. Ok dude, you’ve demeaned women, people with AIDS and now homosexuals, not cool at all. What’s your damage, Heather? Is being Jordan Belfort really your life goal?” (I wanted to admonish him more, but really wanted to see where this was going)
“Fuck yeah, that dude had it all.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s say you get to be as rich as him and throw the parties that he threw and abuse the drugs that he did and demean all the women that he did and ruin all the lives that he did, what would you do after that?”
“I don’t know. More of it?”
“Do you think you’d be happy then?”
“Of course, I’d be rich!”
At this point the Lyft lets him and his buddy out and my buddy, the Lyft driver and I share a “WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED” moment. Who was this guy? What kind of 20 something software developer talks like that?
I was seriously troubled by this and it bothered me all night. Another example of San Francisco changing for the worse. Then, this morning — I saw this video:
This kid is an example of a true victim of the pursuit of happiness…in addition to a misogynist, bigot, homophobe and disgusting piece of shit. Sorry not sorry for judging, but seriously, it was ridiculous. He has a chance to change though. Just like all of us do!
What’s the lesson here? What’s the takeaway? What does this experience tell me about life in 2015 in San Francisco and life in general?
- Avoid this guy at all costs. He’s like a black hole for positivity.
- Be happy with what you have in your life, we are blessed to live in such a fantastic place.
- Try and practice empathy, but don’t give it away in an unsolicited manner.
- Spring for the private Lyft rather than Lyft Line.
- Be careful complaining in public — someone could write a Medium post about how terrible of a person you are right now.
Appreciate the moment, it’s all we got :)